Illustration: Lu Ting/GT
At the very beginning of this summer, I had the chance to work as an assistant counselor at a camp in the US. I worked with American counselors for Chinese kids who were abroad by themselves. My co-workers, who were about the same age as me, were taken aback when they heard that I am a journalism major, which had nothing to do with the camp job.
One of the counselors, from New Zealand, studied outdoor education. He told me that he was interested in teaching and also working outdoors, so this job was perfect for him. In general, foreign students have a better idea of what they want to do in the future and devote themselves to the areas that are related to their ideal career.
I was embarrassed when they asked how I got this job. Confused, I said vaguely that I was still trying different things and trying to figure out what would be my cup of tea. But my co-workers were putting all their knowledge into use and wasting no time trying out their career paths. It struck me how strenuous it is to fumble around for what your interest is when you are about to leave college and step into the competitive world.
Many of my classmates in the journalism major also decided to try out internships in fields other than journalism. Public relations, marketing, sales, teaching... anything other than journalism seems, for some reason, to be attractive to journalism majors.
The original concept of a university major is that you choose what you are interested in so that you can get a job that appeals to you. Under the current educational system, however, Chinese students are not exposed to different fields, so we only have a misty idea of our majors when we choose one.
In traditional Chinese high schools, students put most of their effort into math, Chinese and English. We are dedicated to learning these required courses and racking our brains to get the highest scores in our exams.
So I suggest that high schools start providing more courses for students to choose from. American high school students, for example, have full liberty to choose what they learn besides basic subjects. They usually have a 100-page list of curriculum to choose from and, with the help of their course counselors, they decide their own schedule.
In fact, they do not have to change the whole educational system, but instead just spare some time for extracurricular courses where students can explore the world beyond their required courses. In addition, it may even stimulate students' interest in attending school; some distractions would probably improve their overall performance.
On the other hand, universities should allow more freedom for students to decide their majors. I was studying in Australia as an exchange student last year. One of my classmates told me that she was originally a media major and later took on law as a minor, but she was still unsure about whether she had found the right field and was about to change to geography, thus starting her education all over again.
In China, situations are different. In my university, no change of major is allowed. Due to fierce competition in some majors, those who rank lower in their college entrance examinations are sometimes forced into studying what they are not interested in. Even those universities which do allow students to change their majors strictly limit the number of students who can abandon their original major.
If you want to change your major, you have to be a top student in the first school year, which means you have to do well in your current courses, which, ironically, are not what you like. Many students have no interest in what they are learning and do not pay attention in class; some even skip classes. It is not only a waste of time personally, but also a waste of educational resources. It is time for Chinese educational institutions as well as Chinese students to rethink what a "major" really means.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.